Preview: Not Just Selfie Improvement

Started Aug 28, 2014 | User reviews thread
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Michael Jardine
Michael Jardine Senior Member • Posts: 1,928
Preview: Not Just Selfie Improvement

Beauty Over Brawn

It's not really fair to say the Olympus Pen "Mini" E-PL7, announced today, is a 'selfie' camera just because you can pop down the rear screen to take 'smart' photos of yourself - but maybe that's a sign of the times? The E-PL7 actually features a number of more useful improvements compared to its predecessor, the E-PL5, which was introduced exactly two years ago: faster focus, a better screen, improved shutter (reduced camera shake), focus peaking (yay!), and - most promisingly - a new top control dial. Oh - and a number of tasteful body options and accessories, taking a cue from the E-M10.

Selfie tip: Connect the camera to your smart phone, and operate it completely from your phone - including changing focus points, zoom, exposure settings, and taking multiple shots exactly when you want them. Of course, you don't need a selfie screen for this!

Just curious dept: Mounting the camera to a tripod will be problematical in 'selfie' mode as the tripod screw is directly below the lens.

To Kit or Not To Kit

This next photo shows the E-PL7 paired with the smallest zoom available for the M43 system - the 14-42 EZ, which features an electronic zoom, great for smooth zooming while taking videos. The 14-42 EZ is not as sharp as the larger - and more expensive - PRO version, but it does represent a reasonable compromise between quality and size. What really makes this lens compelling to me is an optional lens cap that opens automatically when you switch the camera on. That's pretty cool and handily solves one of my nigglies: fumbling around to get the lens cap off when you're in the middle of a crowded market. Personally, I think the EZ zoom should be bundled with the E-PL7 as a kit option and I'm guessing that most people would probably choose that over a less expensive option with the standard kit zoom.

Zoom Options

Olympus has a trio of wide-to-tele zooms for the M43 format and Panasonic Lumix offers a few as well. "Choices" is one of the compelling things about the M43 format, by the way. But that's another story. Here is a quick take on the lenses offered by Olympus.

  • The 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R which retails for $299.99 but which usually costs only $100 when included as a kit bundle. Small but not tiny, kludgy to open and close, but pretty sharp.
  • 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ which retails for $349.99 but you can often find it discounted on the Olympus site.
  • 12-40mm f2.8 PRO which retails for $999 but can be found for $899. Large (but still half the size of DSLR equivalents), tack sharp from edge to edge even when wide open, quick-snap manual focus ring, and it is weather-sealed. Also, the slightly wider 12mm more than makes up for the shorter 40mm at the tele end.

Discrete Control

The new control dial raises expectations that for me are only met half way, though this could (hint!) be fixed easily through a firmware update. The dial is discreetly positioned around the shutter release, and adds a 'quick spin' capability depending on the mode. For example, in Aperture priority mode you can spin the dial to adjust the aperture on the fly. I usually shoot in aperture priority mode but I need to adjust both aperture and exposure compensation. Unfortunately, exposure compensation is buried in the menu system. The obvious solution would be a 'toggle' option on the single function button that appears just below the control dial. Click once to adjust aperture (or shutter speed); click again to adjust exposure. If I could toggle between these two settings, I would definitely add the E-PL7 as both a second body that I could use on professional shoots, as well as a drop-in-the-coat-pocket 'go to' camera for evenings out, selfies, food shots, and of course that chance Pulitzer shot that I'm convinced will come my way...

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 Michael Jardine's gear list:Michael Jardine's gear list
Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8 Nikon D800 Olympus E-M1 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Sony a9 +9 more
Olympus PEN E-PL7
16 megapixels • 3 screen • Four Thirds sensor
Announced: Aug 28, 2014
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